OAK RIDGE, Tenn. -- The next supercomputer coming to Oak Ridge National Laboratory will reportedly be capable of performing 20,000 trillion mathematical calculations per second -- a capability that could vault it onto the top as the world's fastest machine.
The extraordinary machine will be called "Titan," and it will reportedly be capable of performing 20,000 trillion mathematical calculations per second -- a capability also known as 20 petaflops.
That's about 10 times faster than Jaguar, Oak Ridge's Cray XT5 supercomputer that is currently ranked the second-fastest machine in the world and arguably the best anywhere at producing science.
The first cabinets of Oak Ridge's new Cray system are expected to arrive before the end of the year, according to Jeff Nichols, associate lab director for scientific computing. The initial units will be operated as a test-bed before the full system is delivered sometime in 2012, Nichols said.
Titan is a follow-up to ORNL's highly successful Jaguar system and an outgrowth of a big U.S. Department of Energy competition the lab won in 2004 for leadership computing.
Following a series of reviews, DOE gave the lab approval to negotiate a contract with Cray for a supercomputer that will include NVIDIA's accelerating GPU technology.
Nichols said the cost of the new computer will be in the range of $100 million.
The timing of the deliveries will be of interest, too, because there's not much room left at the National Center for Computational Sciences -- where Jaguar and the lab's other supercomputers reside. Nichols acknowledged the existing facility is pretty much maxed-out in terms of space, power and chilled water capacity.
A new 160,000-square-foot computer facility is planned for the east end of the ORNL campus, but it's not yet built. In fact, it's not yet under construction.
Nichols confirmed that a proposal to privately finance the new facility is still under review at the federal Office of Management and Budget.
"We really need the facility -- not only for our DOE aspirations, but our 'work for others' aspirations," the ORNL official said. The Oak Ridge lab houses not only the Department of Energy's top supercomputer, but also the top machines of the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Meanwhile, ORNL is looking ahead to the next big thing, which is known as exascale computing -- a thousand-fold increase in capability over today's Jaguars and such.
ORNL has joined with Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories as partners in the high-priority supercomputing effort over the next few years.
The three labs signed a memorandum of understanding to form the Scientific Partnership for Extreme Scale Computing, and they will compete against another team -- of Lawrence Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley and Argonne National Laboratories -- to help the U.S. retain or regain world leadership in computing.
Frank Munger is a senior writer for The Knoxville News Sentinel in Tennessee.